Three protesters yesterday interrupted War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as he was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee.
He had just begun to argue the case for removing the Iraqi president when Medea Benjamin stood up and said, "Mr. Rumsfeld, I think we need weapons inspections, not war." According to an official transcript of the hearing, this was met with applause. She went on: "Why are you obstructing the inspections? Is this really about oil? How many civilians will be killed?"
She and Diane Wilson began chanting "Inspections, not war" and unfurled a banner.
After police forcibly removed them, Rumsfeld said: "as I listened to those comments, it struck me what a wonderful thing free speech is. And of course, the country that threw the inspectors out was not the United States. It was not the United Nations. It was Iraq that threw the inspectors out . . . But of course, people like that are not able to go into Iraq and made demonstrations like that, because they don’t have free speech."
Actually, Rumsfeld is wrong. Iraq did not expel weapons inspectors. In December, 1998, the weapons inspectors withdrew in anticipation of a US bombing.
- Medea Benjamin, activist with Global Exchange and former Green Party candidate for the US Senate.